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Staying Safe on PS4 - Advice for Parents and Carers

14 January 2020


Gaming has changed a lot in the last decade or so. Games are now primarily designed to be played online, while in-game purchases, micro-transactions and loot boxes are commonplace, and skins and customisation have given players even more freedom to make changes to their gaming experiences.

Gaming can play a huge part in young people’s identity and it’s important that we find ways to protect and encourage the healthy parts of it, while also being mindful of the possible risks.

This safety check-up is all about staying safe when playing PlayStation. We’ll also be uploading an Xbox guide in the next few weeks with advice specific to that console.

Create Family Accounts on your PlayStation

Creating Family Accounts on your PlayStation is a great first step towards putting safety as a priority on your PlayStation.

You may see the ‘family account’ function called different things in different places. PlayStation previously referred to Master Accounts and Sub Accounts, but has recently changed the system to Family Managers, as well as Adult and Child Family Members.

The function of these settings remains the same, though. There is one main account that has a degree of administration and oversight over other accounts ‘beneath’ it.

PlayStation has a comprehensive guide to the who, what, and how of Family Accounts but some of the basics about different categories of account include:

Family Managers

These are a role for one adult within the family, allowing them to have control over the settings of other family member. Family Managers play an important role:

  • They have full access to all PlayStation features and controls
  • Are the only users who can add members to the Family and give other Adult Family Members access to parental control settings
  • There can only be one Family Manager in a Family

Child Family Members

This is the profile to use when setting up accounts for the young people in your family. With this account they are able to:

  • Use the PlayStation system and features within the limits of the parental controls
  • Spend funds from the Family Manager's wallet within a spending limit set by the Family Manager
  • Communicate with other PlayStation Network (PSN) users, subject to parental controls

Adult Family Members

As only one person in each family is able to be the Family Manager, all other adults should be assigned as Adult Family Members. Adult Family Members are able to:

Have full, unrestricted access to PlayStation Network on their account and their own wallet for purchases from PlayStation Store

  • However there are some restrictions to what Adult Family Members can do:
  • Cannot add members to the Family
  • Can only set parental controls for children if they have been made a Parent or Guardian by the Family Manager
  • Control how much (if any) money can be spent

Spending on gaming is nothing new, but the method of buying games and add-ons has shifted. You no longer need to go to a shop to pick up the hot new release, you can buy it digitally and play it as soon as it’s downloaded… and then start paying for the in-game micro-transactions too!

These micro-transactions can be helpful, enjoyable, and make your gaming experience better. They can also be risky, with reports of some young players unknowingly racking up hundreds of pounds in bills and some countries outlawing them entirely.

Thankfully, PlayStation have made it easy to control how much your Child Accounts can spend. It takes just five steps to set spending limits for Child Accounts.

Set limits on Play Time

Some people might see setting screen time limits as controversial, and we have previously discussed the differences between screen time and screen use, but setting a limit on ‘Play Time’ for Child Accounts can be a sensible way to keep a healthy balance with gaming.

You can choose various settings for Play Time – for example, for total playable hours, session duration, or set an end time.

Play Time management is easy and can be done via the PS4 system, web browser, or PlayStation App. PlayStation have a clear and simple guide for setting up Play Time limits for all three of those methods.

Know your age ratings

Every game you buy and play will have a PEGI (Pan European Game Information) rating. This is the European standard for age rating on games.

PEGI was introduced in 2003 to standardise the dozens of similar-but-not-precisely-the-same ratings used across the continent.

There are five ratings – 3, 7, 12, 16, and 18 – and a range of a content descriptors that detail what in the game could be considered harmful or offensive.

You can learn more about the PEGI labelswhy they exist, and what they mean on the official PEGI website.

If you want another view on the ratings of games, based on the experiences of parents, children, and experts, we recommend using the magnificent Common Sense Media’s game reviews.

Use parental controls

Play Time, PSN purchases, and Family Accounts are all part of the wider parental controls available on your PlayStation 4. There are some other features that you can enable or disable to protect your younger users and give you peace of mind.

For example, you can:

  • Restrict access to network features
  • Set age ratings
  • Disable use of the web browser and PlayStation VR
  • Stop children from changing parental controls
  • Subscribe and enable PlayStation’s web filter

Learn how to make all of these – and more – happen with PlayStation’s guide to setting parental controls.


Why not pick up a controller yourself - if you’re worried about gaming, you might just benefit from diving in at the deep end and playing a couple of Battle Royales. It’ll be confusing, hectic, loud, and a lot of fun.

Once you’ve played these games, you’ll understand their appeal. And if you end up thinking they’re even more stupid than you first thought, at least you’ll have an idea of the environments and platforms your kids are inhabiting.


This article was originally published by SWGfL, a partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre.

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